West of 5th
There is irony and exasperation in encountering a Chesky release in SACD. The superior resolution of SACD optimizes the given sound quality of any recording. But the sound you start with here is characteristically Chesky, with faint drums, disembodied bass and vague piano.
Fortunately, it is possible to “listen around” the sound (almost like one must do with very old recordings) and enjoy the music of this unique multi-generational trio. Hank Jones was 87 ½ when he made West of 5th, and if he has lost any of his finesse, it is not audible to normal mortals (i.e., those of us subject to the aging process). Hank is capable of demonstrating that true gentlemen can wail (“Confirmation,” “Billie’s Bounce”), but the signature pieces here are the ballads. “Lotus Blossom,” “A Child Is Born” and “We’ll Be Together Again” convey their humanity with an emotional authenticity that is consistent with and inseparable from their elegant refinement. In the new millennium, this kind of poised, centered self-possession is rare and valuable.
The power of Christian McBride’s bass can fill large outdoor arenas. Here his solos are appropriately scaled to an intimate setting, in concentrations of lyric clarity. Jimmy Cobb is unfailingly deft and crisp.